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Jono Bacon’s take on the New Era of Community Management at OSCON

Jono Bacon is the Community Manager for Ubuntu and gave a talk this morning at OSCON. Community management is important one to me because of my involvement in the Plone community. We could use a formal community manager, but individuals in our community seem to fill many of the roles he discussed.

The main points from his presentation about Community Management were the following:

  1. Hire Carefully
  2. Build Trust
  3. Govern Well
  4. Build The On-Ramp
  5. Keep Score

Jono covered many of the fundamental activities that communities fulfill and talked about the ways to go about it. The talk impressed upon me the importance of details that sometimes seem to fall by the wayside..

Sometimes we need to state the obvious

Codes of Conduct aren’t just fluff. Sometimes you really have to put in writing things like “don’t be an asshole”. OSCON put out a good blog post before the conference about sexual harassment at technical conferences. Even with that stated clearly and discussed in the community, someone still managed to ignore guidance and use examples in their presentation which demonstrated the very behaviors being discouraged. I assume based on the expectations set by Tim O’Reilly in his post, we shouldn’t see that person invited to OSCON in the future.

If you are not keeping score it doesn’t count

We need to be able to track growth in the community and report on it. If we can’t see activity in the project, people may assume it is dying. It is important to establish a set of metrics to determine the health of the community. The metrics aren’t necessarily numbers of followers or mailing list posts, but they need to reflect real value. How are we going to demonstrate to the world that we are still relevant and actually are a vibrant community?

Build trust by making everyone play by the same rules

The leadership of the community needs to set a good example by how they interact with the community. This will make it easier for new people to join and contribute. Its one thing to SAY you want to do the right things, but actually doing them is where you establish trust.

Recognize contributions and use of kudos

This is one goal that I feel Plone has been trying hard to succeed at. Our Plone Tune-up Days are an easy way for new people to jumpstart their involvement in the community. We have recently added a “Bounty Program” to help recognize groups that take on tasks the community recognizes as needed. It is important to highlight contributions by the corporations as well. Some communities don’t seem to value contributions made to open source projects that were originally developed for paying clients. To me that just seems silly. Contributing code they’ve paid for is a great way for companies who can’t actually write code to give back to the community and should be encouraged and applauded when it takes place.

How we can move forward

Promoting what community members are doing, discussing or researching is key to keeping any community active. As the President of the Plone Foundation, I also make sure people are comfortable coming to me if they have concerns in the community. One way to diffuse issues that arise in group discussions is to take the time to talk to individuals after a meeting to understand and address their concerns. This takes time but goes a long way in keeping things moving. How can you help?

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